In an opposing turn to ‘The Longest Day’ episode of Race to the Edge; Defenders of Berk: The Endless Night is the first installment into the Defenders of Berk comic series of the franchise. Assumingly, it follows up the events of Riders of Berk the TV series and comics. A sorcerer curses Berk into what seems to be a never-ending night. It’s very different from the previous stories relating to How to Train Your Dragon. Aside from the dragons, most of their antagonists are all humans with no special or magical capabilities. Most of their battles against Hiccup are either strategy wars or physical challenges. But this new enemy of theirs has supposed mystical powers.
Simon Furman and Iwan Nazif reunite in creating this piece. But there are slight differences here from the previous graphic novels under Dreamworks Dragons. There’s both an evolution and devolution in terms of art. Nazif falters in some cases, which is not a good introduction to the Defenders of Berk title of the comics. You can see on the first page of The Endless Night that both Hiccup and Toothless’ eyes are uneven. Other characters also suffer the same fate but in a more subtle manner. There are also some weird choices in terms of character amputation; cutting away from Astrid’s face halfway, or Gobber whose entire body save for his face is visible in one shot. These are really distracting. It’s quite a shame as well as Nazif’s art has been flawless in all other aspects.
As for the writing; I’ve noticed that in the last few of Furman’s work with Dreamworks Dragons, there are more layers to every line he writes. The Endless Night – for example – has an abundance of phrases and quotes that reference the greater world of the franchise and tell a deeper story relating to the characters. Two lines that connect in a cyclical manner are in the opening and closing pages of the graphic novel. “It’s up to me to keep reminding him that sometimes enemies can become best friends,” Hiccup says in the introduction page. It’s a reference to Hiccup’s endless strive for peaceful resolution; a statement that reminds us of the many enemies they’ve turned into friends – the dragons, Alvin, Dagur, and Viggo.
That particular line coincides with Stoick saying, “Listen, son. You keep right on looking for the best in people and dragons. And I’ll keep reminding you to hope for the best and plan for the worst”. This shows perfectly the balance between father and son; the cycle of not just their relationship, but the overall story of How to Train Your Dragon. Of course, we have more familiar tropes coming back around. There again is Hiccup’s lack of self-preservation. His trouble with water never ceases! We’ve got the usual shenanigans and crazy misadventures. Everyone gets a chance at the spotlight; from Astrid and her stealthy pursuit of the opposing ships, to Fishlegs hitting the books.
One thing I do want to focus on is the sorcery aspect introduced in The Endless Night. This is something I’ve been wanting to see in the franchise. It’s all well and good when there’s a semblance of realism to the story. But it’s a bit unnatural to not have individuals claiming to be witches or sorceresses in the archipelago. Because they are synonymous with the culture of the time. Like drowning witches, the sorcery here is rooted in ignorance and lack of understanding. I really like the use of the eclipse for the endless night spectacle. It shows that the world of How to Train Your Dragon is still constantly evolving. These events supposedly happened hundreds of years ago and it’s nice to be reminded of that. That’s why the finishing line, “At least it’s a day older and we’re maybe a little wiser” is so impactful.
I also love that this whole magical aspect introduces the character of Skuld the Sorceress. She’s so pretty; her design is incredibly detailed – she looks like a Yu-Gi-Oh card! The lettering surrounding her by Jim Campbell leans into that sorcery and magical aspect of her aesthetic. As a character, she’s very interesting and I wish we got to see more of her. I love the little hints to her backstory about selling potions in the marketplace. She’s the magical spice this entire series needs. It’s also interesting that she uses Scauldrons as well – different colors of Scauldrons! I like this addition to the overall How to Train Your Dragon lore, as well as the allusions to witchcraft with the word “cauldron”.
Other aspects I really like about The Endless Night are the new art details Nazif uses. There are transparent speech bubbles and thick black lines that call attention to certain sights from a specific character’s point of view. Digikore’s colors are always impeccable, but here especially. He uses the dragons’ flame and fire breaths to create a sort of firework effect. These remind me of scenes from the TV series such as the combination of Toothless and Thornado’s powers in ‘Live and Let Fly’, as well as the celebration from the 400th year anniversary of Berk in ‘Midnight Scrum’. It’s all these pretty visual details that I just really appreciate in this particular installment.
We’re reviewing every single comic from the Dreamworks Dragons series every month in anticipation of the How to Train Your Dragon 2’s ten-year-anniversary. If you love animation and dragons, miss this 2010 classic, and want more of the dragon riders; you may want to check back in every now and then for the rest of the series! You can pick up a copy of The Endless Night on Amazon. Let us know what you think of Dreamworks Dragons on our Instagram or Twitter!
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